Journey Through Bangladesh
The 'BBC Bazaar'
The story of teastall that spawned a bazaar, and served more than just tea
Ahmed Humayun Kabir Topu
There was more to Abul Kashem Mollah's tea-stall then the sweet, milky tea he used to serve up. During the Liberation War, residents of the surrounding villages of Ruppur, Pakshey, and Shahapur would come to his tea stall every evening, not just for the freshly brewed tea, but for information. Kashem Mollah was the owner of a 3 band radio, a radio through the British Broadcasting Corporation's news service would inform the villages of the latest developments in the field of war. Through the course of the war, the stall was raided several times by the occupying army, but Kashem Mollah refused to close shop.
Today, there is sprawling market around site of the stall, on the banks of the mighty Padma in Ruppur, called the BBC Bazaar. According to our sources, before the liberation war, nothing existed on the site where BBC Bazar stands today, expect for a Koroi tree. After the occupying army burnt down his original tee stall at Pakshey railway market on March 29, Kashem Mollah moved his stall into the shade of the single Koroi tree. And he brought along his 3 brand radio, which was a gift from his wife. The surrounding villages were mostly impoverished, and most did not have access to a radio. As such, radio became the communal property of many of residents of the surrounding villages, and the tea-stall their commune.
“The villagers from Ruppur, Pakshey, Shahapur and 12 to 15 other adjoining villages would come to this shop to listen to BBC news broadcasts. We were eager to listen to BBC news service, as this was the only reliable source of information we had on the war” said Mostafizur Rahman, a regular patron of the tee-stall throughout the war, and a freedom fighter.
On any given day, several hundred people from different villages would gather at the tea stall. They would listen to BBC's news service, and discuss the war situation amongst themselves. Freedom fighters would also gather at his stalls to listen to the morale-boosting broadcasts of 'Shadhin Bangla Betar Kendra'. According to Md. Rashidullah, a freedom-fighter, veteran politican and a resident of Ruppur, Pakshey BBC Bazar achieved legendery status during the liberation war.
“There was no Bazaar. It was a jungle area. But Kashem Mollah established a tea stall there, and that's how the bazaar got started” Md. Rashidullah told the Star Insight. During the liberation war some other stalls were established, surrounding the original tea-stall. Villagers would also take their crops and other goods there for sale. These formed the foundation of today's BBC Bazaar.
After the liberation war the Bazar area was expanded, and it turned into a busy market, serving the 20 villages of Ruppur and Pakshey union of Ishwardi upazila. Today, there are some 350 shops in BBC Bazar. Some of them are brick and mortar shops, others more transient tin-sheds. BBC Bazar is one of the largest rural markets of Ishwardi upazila as well as greater Pabna.
The name BBC Bazar was established officially after the liberation war. There are many tea stalls and other shops in this market, but the Abul Kashem Mollah's stall is no longer there. Though the market was built around the historical tea stall, the stall and its radio can no longer be found.
Today, Kashem Mollah has established a sweets shop in Pakshey rail market. Although his brother, Shamim Mollah, operates a tea stall in BBC Bazar, it does not have a radio. But the stall makes up for it with a TV, and people still rush to the shop in the evenings to watch the news services of the Bangla channels.
Although most shops of the market have embraced modern technology, some still hold on to the memoirs of the past. Md. Jamin Uddin, a regular patron of the original BBC Bazar tea-stall, runs his own tea-stall at the bazaar now. His shop still has an old fashioned three-band radio.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009